The Chemistry Behind Sleep

We all have had those tossing, turning, exhausting nights that last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. If you struggle with any type of sleep disorder you are fully aware of the negative affects it may have on your productivity and performanc in life as well as your health.

When sleep is interrupted it could be a number of things, but before you turn to a “magic” pill that promises you a rejuvenating nights rest, make sure your “biological clock” is being maintained.

A key factor in how human sleep is regulated is based on circadian rhythms which should be viewed as the master clock that controls the sleep-wake cycle. It is set by visual commands of light and darkness. Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway to the circadian clock (Suprachiasmatic Nucleus) that tells other parts of the brain that controls hormones, body temperature and other functions that make us feel sleepy or awake.
A major hormone that is under rule by this clock is Melatonin which is a natural hormone your body produces in the Pineal Gland located in the brain.

Melatonin levels rise in the mid to late evening, making sleep more inviting. This hormone is called the “Dracula of Hormones” only coming out at night, or in dark where natural light and some artificial light can be bright enough to prevent the release of melatonin making it difficult to fall or stay asleep.

Because Melatonin is a hormone that is part of the human wake-sleep cycles, some individuals with sleep deprivation find that taking a small dose in a pill form has helped them fall asleep or stay asleep longer. Some studies also show a decrease in the time it takes to fall asleep and reduce the amount of awakenings throughout the night.

Melatonin may be helpful to shift workers on an irregular shift who need to adjust their sleeping patterns, as well as jet lag. When traveling across time zones, your body has a hard time adjusting to “home time” and the new time. Jet lag is a physical condition that can make you feel hungry, sleepy and alert all at the wrong times and is caused by a disturbance of our “master clock” (circadian rhythms) associated with sleep deprivation. For this dietary supplement to be helpful, the correct dosage, method and time of day it is taken must be appropriate. Taking it the “wrong” way may reset your biological clock in an undesirable direction.

If you suffer from any of these exhausting symptoms, there’s hope without having to turn to a prescription. You can find this natural dietary supplement in your local health food store and you can finally be on your way to the restorative nights sleep you have been dreaming of.

Listening To Your Internal Clock

The responsibilities and stresses of life have an incredible impact on our physical bodies. Over time, that impact can manifest itself in many ways that adversely affects our physical well being. The human body can only take so much before it needs to rest and recuperate. Most of us are aware of the need for sleep but many do not know just how much the body requires it.

As a matter of fact, the human brain is equipped with a specific mechanism to regulate what is known as our internal clock. The clinical term for this clock is the “circadian rhythm”. This biological mechanism is what regulates and controls our body’s daily routines and physical patterns like blood pressure, body temperature, and hormone release. Our need for sleep is also regulated by this internal clock and our ability (or willingness) to follow this clock is a huge part of our sleep patterns and overall health.

Our circadian rhythm is set when we’re infants; normally within the first few months of life. It is during this early stage of our lives that we develop our sleep schedule. Most Americans are “programmed” to sleep between midnight and dawn and a somewhat diminished interval in the afternoon. Anyone who has tried to stay awake all night can testify to the body’s reaction to that decision. Whether you sleep the day before or not, there is an inherent need within the body to sleep at night and that need is dictated by your internal clock.

While the clock can be reset to a different time (for example, for night shift work), most people find the transition to be (at best) unsettling and (at worst) impairing. While most can eventually change their sleeping patterns, the need for sleep at specific times is so rudimentary to our existence that we can feel the negative effects of that change for years.

Why is this circadian rhythm so important? Ignoring your body’s need for sleep should be an obvious problem. Without regular sleep intervals, our bodies will make the need for rest known in many forms of sleep disorders. Sleep studies have shown our circadian rhythm sleep patterns go a long way toward correcting, if not outright preventing, many of the sleep disorders that plague us. In other words, it’s not just important that you get some sleep; you need to sleep when the body is telling you to sleep. While there are times in our lives that the clock has to be ignored, habitually hitting the “snooze” on your internal clock has never ended well. That gentle head-bob while driving at night can quickly become a tragic incident if ignored for too long. Taking over-the-counter remedies for drowsiness like energy drinks, coffee, or legal amphetamines (like “No-Doze”) can delay the body’s need for sleep, but sooner or later, the rhythm is gonna get ya.

So, listen to your body. Anyone who has been deprived of sleep can testify there’s nothing that can recharge the batteries and reboot the brain like a good night’s sleep.